For sachet or stick pack packaging, the Allen MLi-TE multi-lane thermal transfer printer is a top solution for coding individual expiration dates or lot codes upstream. Multiple lanes can print quickly and simultaneously, utilizing one ribbon to avoid multiple consumables running out at various, unsynchronized times. The Allen MLi’s configurable design requires only one controller and one consumable for up to 12-lanes of print, greatly simplifying packaging machine maintenance and reducing downtime.
Once your packet is coded, sachet or stick pack packaging requires a specialized system to form the packaging receptacle, fill the product into the packet, and seal the ends to secure the product for transport. These systems are known as FFS - form, fill, and seal machines - and they come in two different varieties: (1) Vertical (VFFS) and (2) Horizontal (HFFS). Vertical uses gravity to aide in the filling process, where horizontal is generally high speed by using mechanical methods for filling.
Today we’re doing a Q&A with an expert stick pack OEM, Viking Masek, to cover the key points to evaluate when selecting stick pack equipment to integrate with a marking and coding solution like the Allen MLi-TE.
Stick pack machines are perfect for packaging a wide variety of powder, granular, and liquid products. Powder products can be dense, fine, loose, and particulate materials. Liquids can be substances of differing viscosities including water-like fluids, gels, and pastes.
Stick packaging is very popular in many industries, especially with powdered drink mixes, liquid and powder pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals, and granular ingredients like sugar. Contract packagers in the medical and dietary supplement industries also highly favor stick packaging equipment.
Single serve and controlled dosage packaging is very popular with todays’ consumers, spanning across many generational demographic groups. Millennials and young professionals love stick packs because they are portable, convenient, and fit unobtrusively into their busy lives. The aging population uses stick packs because they are lightweight and often feature easy-open options like tear notches, making it easier for those with limited dexterity to handle and use the product. Moms and dads are attracted to stick packs because they can easily feed their children with a single, easy to open, controlled serving size package that requires little clean up and virtually no utensils.
When it comes to selecting the proper stick packaging equipment for your unique product, there are experts available to guide you every step of the way. However, there are a few major considerations they will take into account when recommending machinery. These include:
All stick pack machines can utilize the following product fillers:
Stick pack machines can be built to accommodate different stick widths (most popular are 23 mm and 35 mm), convenient designs including pour spouts and specialty die-cut shapes, and can also feature easy-open options like tear notches and micro-perforations. Available with IQ/OQ pharma construction, stick packaging machinery is a great solution for pharmaceutical packaging.
Often stick pack clients desire to print expiration dates or lot codes on their stick packaging. There are many multi-lane printing options available, including Diagraph’s new Allen MLi-TE multi-lane thermal transfer printer.
First, do your research. This can be done via the internet, on the phone, or in person through your professional and personal networks. Attend industry trade shows and strive to see available equipment in person. When you’ve narrowed down your packaging OEM choices and are looking for more details in the form of a proposal, prepare by defining key points the equipment manufacturer will need so to provide the most accurate configuration for your specific needs. The key items that must be defined differ from powder to liquid products.
Remember that with most capital purchases, and especially when it comes to a piece of equipment you will rely on for a vital part of your production process, you often get what you pay for. Consider not only the initial purchase price of the piece of machinery, but total cost of ownership (TCO). TCO will include costs for things like training, maintenance and parts, installation, and tax implications.
Located in Southeast Wisconsin, Viking Masek manufactures, sells, and services flexible packaging machinery for food and non-food industries worldwide. Our focus on packaging innovation and investments in both technology and people makes us uniquely poised to take on unique packaging equipment projects, both large and small. Have questions about flexible packaging? Contact us today for a free Packaging Equipment Consultation.
How do you Print on a Sachet or Stickpack?
By Steve Dods, Automated Labeling Products (ALP) & Thermal Transfer Overprinter (TTO) Products Manager
Sachets are packets or sealed pouches that contain liquids, gels, or powders and typically sealed on four (4) sides. Stickpacks are tube-like packaging that is sealed on two ends with a continuous seam side. These convenient packaging methods are highly utilized in the food and beverage additive markets, but can be seen in pharmaceutical as well as cosmetic industries.
This packaging type requires a specialized system to form the packaging receptacle, fill the product into the packet, and seal the ends to secure the product for transport. These systems are known as FFS, Form, Fill, and Seal machines, and they come in two different varieties. Once is Vertical, or VFFS, and the other is Horizontal, or HFFS. Vertical uses gravity to aide in the filling process, where horizontal is generally high speed by using mechanical methods for filling.
Since sachets and stick packs can be sold individually, there can be the need to print information about expiration date and lot code onto the individual products. Since it is far less accurate to accomplish this task once they are filled, due to irregularities in shape and placement control, it is done "upstream". Upstream of the fill process is where the film or web is unwound from a large roll. This is the best location to mark and code the product - before it is individualized in the process. There are many ways to accomplish this type of date / lot / id coding, but there is one that stands out amongst the rest.
In marking the products in the web matrix, there are several "lanes" of product on the master web. That means higher fill rates by handling multiple products in each indexing move through the process. A typical number of adjacent products is 5 or 6, but some are as few as 4 or as high as 12. In rare instances, lanes numbers exceeding 12 have been realized. Due to these high number of prints required at each indexing interval, traditional methods of marking are usually ruled out.
Of the possible marking methods, there are a few that have been used in practice. One is to brute force out the marking process by using multiple ink jet print heads. This is somewhat difficult to manage, as there is a requirement for non-porous ink to mark the web, which tends to have issues with the short decap time and fast dry times that can clog or require higher maintenance. Most objections from OEM FFS manufacturers and end users is the mess and chemicals in close proximity to dispensing foods and powders.
Another method is to use TTO (Thermal Transfer Overprinting) to traverse across the web to mark an indelible print using a clean ribbon method. This works, but the throughput rates suffer due to the time it takes to sweep laterally across the web each time. On the same idea, there are traversing ink jet solutions as well. They again suffer from the points above, and additionally add the time component for the sweep across the web.
The best method that eliminates the weaknesses of the aforementioned methods is the multi-lane intermittent (MLi) TTO system. The MLi incorporates a plurality of print heads to match the number of lanes requiring print. It utilizes one ribbon, to avoid multiple consumables running out at various, unsynchronized times. It is able to print very quickly, since each head can print simultaneously, each covering an area up 100 mm (across the web) x 52 mm (in the direction of web movement). Systems like these may have a slightly higher upfront price, but more than make up for it in much higher uptime and ease of use. Maintenance is fair less, and it requires little skill to perform daily operation functions, since loading a ribbon is straight forward.
Diagraph, An ITW Company is a leading manufacturer and distributor of marking, coding and labeling systems and supplies, and has been in the product identification industry for over 120 years. Diagraph’s products include all-electric printer applicator labeling systems, LINX continuous ink jet and laser coders, large character ink jet printing systems and thermal transfer overprinting systems. For more information, call 800-722-1125, send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit diagraph.com.
No longer is it the case that snacks are packaged specifically for children’s lunch boxes. Today, the snack market is heavily geared towards adults with 94% of adults snacking at least once a day and 50% snacking 2 to 3 times a day.* Snack producers are tasked with changing traditional packaging to address a different kind of consumer.
To stay on top of fluctuating snack market trends, food companies find they need to develop new packaging such as single-serve packs, convenient on-the-go solutions, and sustainable “green” packaging. Aside from creating a trendy and appealing packaging aesthetic, snack packaging frequently requires variable codes such as “Best By” or expiration dates. With consumers growing more and more health-conscious, some code requirements include allergen information, genetic modification information, and country of origin.
Many snack food companies make use of continuous ink jet (CIJ) printing technology to meet these coding requirements. CIJ is cost- effective and has a wide range of fluids to ensure coding adhesion and legibility on both porous and non-porous packaging like cardboard, plastics, metal, glass, or flexible packaging. At a minimum, your CIJ equipment must be able to produce legible and durable date, lot, and identification codes on a variety of substrates. However, there are other key features to look for when selecting a continuous ink jet printer to keep your snack packaging operations in uptime by minimizing maintenance and human errors including:
Given the wide variety of packages and product types at snack food manufacturers, the flexibility offered by CIJ is also considered an appealing benefit. Leading systems’ printheads can be used in any orientation with 360 degree printhead positioning and many can be moved from line to line to accommodate many shapes, sizes, and levels of packaging.
Diagraph offers the Linx 8900 Series CIJ printers to help our customers produce a long lasting, quality mark on a variety of packaging materials. The 8900 Series is designed with many smart, easy-to-use features to keep your production line up and running. Live chat with one of our equipment specialists to learn more. Or, read up on the latest innovations in snack food packaging in our latest whitepaper.
2018: Innovations in Snack Food Packaging
When looking at purchasing small character continuous ink jet coding equipment, it’s important to take a step back and look at the total cost of ownership. As consumers, we have fallen into the habit of looking at the sticker price, no matter if it’s a car, dishwasher, or ink jet printer and immediately formulating an opinion based on the price tag. “It’s too expensive” or “it costs more than other ones just like it” might be typical reactions when finding something that looks like it’s priced higher than similar looking, competitive models. And it’s easy to understand why we do that…and we ALL do that. Typically, it’s a large purchase. Or in the case of buying something for business, it’s a capital expenditure, and the purchase needs to be justified. However, if you want to find the true cost of what you’ll spend, you have to look at more than just the initial purchase price, or “perceived price” of any item…you’ll need to look at the total cost of ownership. Doing a proper cost analysis may take a little time and effort, but it’s time well spent. It can save you in both dollars and “sense” later on.
With the purchase of a small character continuous ink jet (CIJ) printer, there are three main areas when considering the total cost:
1. Purchase Price 2. Maintenance & Production Downtime Costs 3. Consumables & Parts Costs
Again, the first and most obvious indicator of pricing comes from the purchase price of the item. And there’s a pretty healthy range of pricing and options when it comes to CIJ printers. Make sure you are comparing equivalent features and options when looking at printers head to head. And if CIJ printers are designed to print, whether it be alphanumerics; date codes; batch codes; lot codes; bar codes; graphics or logos, what makes one different from the other? They all still print the code, right?
The old adage, “you usually get what you pay for” greatly comes into play with CIJ printers, just like it does with automobiles. The similarities are uncanny. Every automobile, when it came off the showroom floor, was designed with at least one commonality in mind: to get you from point A to point B. But think about the vehicles you’ve owned. Hasn’t there been one that drove better, last longer, provided more reliability than others that you’ve had? It’s the same with CIJ printers. They’re all designed to come off the showroom floor, or in this case out of the box, and “drive” or print. However, just like your favorite vehicle, there is a difference from one CIJ to the next, on how it drives, how long it lasts, how reliable it is over time. And in the end, just like an automobile, you usually get what you pay for. In a sense, you can “pay now or pay later”. (“Pay now” meaning the initial cost may seem more expensive, but over time will be minimized by less maintenance, less downtime, less headaches. Or “pay later” meaning a lower cost initially, but over time more expense through frequent maintenance, more downtime, more headaches.
After purchase price, we need to look at an area that may be thought about the least, but arguably should be considered the most. It’s the categories that we don’t automatically think about when we think about “price”, but these are a very important part of the equation when adding up to the total cost of ownership.
Some important questions to ask while comparing CIJ printers:
Do you see the reoccurring theme? Let’s face it, time is money. And the time that your production line is not running is costing your company money. Ask any Maintenance Manager who oversees a CIJ printer on the production line about their joys or pains. Depending on the CIJ printer, you’ll either hear “I press the go button in the morning for start-up, I press the red button in the afternoon for go home, and the time in-between I have no problems.” Or you’ll hear responses like, “my CIJ printer takes forever to start-up, I have to clean the printhead daily, I have to manually make adjustments to the printhead, it’s a mess.” So one of the factors that needs to be added in to the total cost of ownership is time. How long does the printer take to get up and running? What’s involved? How much time is spent daily on maintaining the printer, or more specifically, the printhead? Are manual adjustments to the printhead needed in order to maintain print quality throughout the day?
Is the printhead your friend or foe? For example, if daily printer startups takes 10 minutes every day x 7 days week x 52 weeks/year, that’s an average of over 60 hours spent just on getting the CIJ printer to print! How much is your time worth per hour? Do the math. How important is it to have a CIJ printer that does not require daily printhead cleaning nor any manual adjustments made to the printhead? How much time could that save? How much money could that save! That too is part of the cost of ownership that needs to be factored in.
While not all CIJ printers require factory air, many today do. So another cost as part of your analysis is factory air. How often does the air filter need to be replaced? What is the cost of the air itself? $400/year? And what about portability or rather mobility. Some manufacturers like to have one printer to move to multiple production lines at different times of the day. If so, how easy is it to move the CIJ printer if there is an airline connected to it? Will I need an airline added in another location? If you’re comparing a CIJ printer that does use factory air vs. one that does not, make sure to take those items into consideration as well. They too are part of your cost.
Also, and without getting into the details, it is important to know how frequently your CIJ printer will require scheduled maintenance. You’ll want to understand from your CIJ vendor what is recommended by the manufacturer and factor that into your cost.
Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to consumables. Ink consumption will be based on the volume used to mark your product. Solvent consumption has many variables based on ambient temperature and fluids management (i.e. are you wasting solvent on printhead cleaning, are you needing to refresh systems with new solvent when you haven’t finished your old solvent yet). Figuring how much ink and solvent your CIJ printer requires to put your mark on your product is part of the cost analysis. Also, in terms of purchasing fluids, make sure that you are comparing the volume of fluids per case. Some vendors will package and sell 6 bottles to a case; others will be 10 bottles to a case, so make certain you are looking at the total volume when looking at cost per case on consumables.
Replacement parts should be purchased from a manufacturer-approved source. Discount replacement parts (i.e. from a third party) may prove to be more costly due to increased maintenance & service costs.
So that’s basically it. The key to determining the total cost of ownership is to look at the total picture. And if you’re working with a reputable vendor of CIJ printers, they’ll alert you to this and even aid in figuring your total cost. The main thing to remember is that a CIJ printer with a higher purchase price does not make it a more expensive printer. In fact, it will probably save you money because of its quality, reliability, and longevity.
At the end of the day, what you’re really buying is value and peace of mind. If you have to continually stop your production line to babysit the CIJ printer because it’s time to add fluids, tweak the printhead, etc. on a printer that you saved a few thousand dollars on, you’re not saving money. With CIJ printers, you really do get what you pay for. Remember, it’s about dollars and “sense”.
And just like automobiles, you should be able to do a “test drive” of the CIJ printers before you purchase. A quality vendor will access your application needs, make a recommendation based on best-fit technology and provide you with a free, no-obligation demonstration of the CIJ printer on your production line. If they can’t or won’t do that, look elsewhere.
Every year the biggest show in packaging and processing raises the bar for innovation and consumer trends. Whether you're looking for a solution to production challenges or you're attending to absorb new industry information, experts from across the industry exhibit at PACK EXPO to share their latest and greatest products and services. This fall, PACK EXPO kicks off in Las Vegas on September 23rd through the 25th.
If marking, coding and labeling solutions are on your list for the show, visit Diagraph at booth C-4000. Our product specialists are ready to help answer your questions about product identification - from product coding to case coding - and material handling. We're here to help pair you with the solution that best matches your product coding application needs whether that is best accomplished with small character inkjet, high-resolution inkjet, labeling, thermal transfer or laser coding.
This year we are offering PACK EXPO attendees that have their badges scanned in Diagraph's booth C-4000 exclusive access to great promotional offers across all of our product lines. We're making it easy for you to upgrade your systems to the latest technology with major savings. If you are attending the show, be sure to stop by the booth to ensure that you qualify for these show specials.
To be eligible for any of these exclusive show specials, you must have your badge scanned at C-4000. These offers are valid for US customers only and redeemable through the end of 2019.
We're also offering free registration to Pack Expo to customers who use our comp code 35N95 when you register here.
2018 marks Diagraph’s 125th anniversary in business and we’re inviting the industry to celebrate this momentous occasion with us at PACK EXPO International in Chicago. Diagraph is exhibiting at booth N-5721 with our full line-up of product solutions including small character inkjet, high-resolution inkjet case coders, all-electric labelers and thermal transfer overprinters. Come visit us and discover our new initiatives designed to make product identification easy for our customers. The show begins in Chicago on Sunday, October 14 and runs through Wednesday, October 17.
Visitors to have their badges scanned in the Diagraph booth will be eligible to take advantage of our exclusive show specials that run through the duration of 2018. Don't miss out on our best promotions of the year!
Buy a Linx 8900 Series small character continuous inkjet printer at more than 30% off and receive a free photocell and trolley stand. Over $4,000 in savings!
Why the Linx 8900 Series small character inkjet?
Get an Diagraph IJ768E ACS high resolution inkjet printhead for the price of the Diagraph IJ384E 2” printhead and double your available print height to accommodate larger, more complex case coding messages. Plus, when you purchase one day of installation and training, you’ll receive an extra day of installation and training at no charge.
Why the IJ768E high-resolution inkjet printheads?
Buy any standard fullprint and apply labeler or tamp label applicator system and get all recommended accessories, installation and training for free.
Why the PA6000 print and apply labeler or LA4750 label applicator?
Buy one thermal transfer printer (excluding the MLi) and get a spare printhead and ribbon starter pack for free.
Why take advantage of this deal for your NGT Series or Allen XL5000 purchase?
These offers are exclusive to visitors to the Diagraph booth N-5721 in PACK EXPO Chicago that have their badges scanned! Whether you are in need of an upgrade to your coding and labeling operations or looking to begin automating, this is a great opportunity to level-up your operational efficiencies for a great value.
When it comes to product identification equipment, Diagraph likes to keep intervention requirements to a minimum so that customers can simply focus on producing their products. We do this in several ways including:
It is worthwhile to spend a little more time breaking down the importance of these three areas of focus:
At Diagraph, we design our coding and labeling equipment to run cleaner for longer between required interventions as well as to withstand wear and tear to get more useful life out of our equipment. This results in greater equipment uptime and a stronger return on investment over the life of Diagraph equipment.
We accomplish this by focusing on minimizing the number of steps required for routine interventions as well as extending the length of time that can pass between those interventions. Product capabilities like automatic printhead cleanings help keep inkjet coders running with optimal print quality for longer.
Examining consumable replenishment practices and offering opportunities to centralize ink refills or provide a quick turn label stock webbing approach makes accomplishing required interventions quicker and hassle-free.
Finally, quality materials and thoughtful engineering make a difference when it comes to the longevity of your equipment. At Diagraph, we focus on impact resistant designs – whether it be an inkjet coder or a labeler – to ensure long-term product reliability.
Other than making sure your product coding equipment is properly matched to your application and manufacturing environment, one of the most essential steps we can take to ensure your success is to make sure your line operators and maintenance staff know how to properly handle and maintain your equipment.
Because many of our manufacturing customers deal with worker turnover challenges on a regular basis, we recommend routine training touchpoints to keep workers knowledgeable and good stewards of your equipment investment. At Diagraph, we offer refresher-level training opportunities with each scheduled service visit from a Diagraph field service engineer and high-level, more in-depth training that can take place on location or at the Diagraph training facility in St. Charles, Missouri.
Our most successful customers work with us in partnership to regularly evaluate and maintain their coding and labeling equipment. At Diagraph, we team up with our customers to perform routine equipment assessments, provide regularly scheduled service support, and develop long-term equipment upgrade plans.
Staying ahead of wear-caused failures and properly maintaining your equipment keeps it running for longer thus reducing the need for unplanned interventions. As with all things electro-mechanical, there comes a time when equipment performance starts to impact production throughputs. We help you navigate the useful life of your equipment so that you know when it is best to repair and maintain a system or to upgrade to take advantage of performance and feature enhancements.
By working closely together, our account teams can help develop a multi-year plan that provides measurable cost saving opportunities to our customers thanks to efficiency gains in system and consumable usage optimization. These strategic audits also help customers strategically sequence system upgrades of their older technologies in order to avoid the sticker shock that comes along with most of your product identification equipment failing at the same time. Our goal is to always eliminate surprises as much as possible.
Call us today at 800.722.1125 to learn more about how Diagraph partners with manufacturers to achieve product identification and packaging compliance success.